UFC's bizarre DMCA notices getting tech coverage

Recently a series of Digital Millennium Copyright Act claims by Zuffa have been raising the eyebrows of the tech community.

Fans may already know that Zuffa (and by proxy, the UFC) are one of the most aggressive pursuers of digital piracy and digital copyright legislation. They have sued bars and websites that host illegal streams and are actively searching during every live broadcast of their events to shut down digital piracy as it happens. Recently they've moved to a new tactic, which uses outside consultants to file mass Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) claims against URLs which they determine to be hosting Zuffa owned content. It's a broad-brush approach that has resulted in the takedown of over half a million URLS. Unfortunately such a sweeping approach has resulted in some broad implications as well. The tech/torrent news site Torrent Freak explains:

While the above is an example of a highly targeted takedown (very specific URLs containing torrents to the actual infringing content) there is a growing trend at anti-piracy companies to employ a carpet-bombing mentality, rather sending in the required precision strike.

The terrible results of this broad brush approach can be seen in this very embarrassing notice sent by Zuffa / IP Arrow to Google on August 14. As can be seen from the screenshot, Zuffa is claiming that some pretty awful content is their property, and (worst still) the original copies can be found at UFC.com, which they obviously can’t.

UFC DMCA 2

So how is this needless embarrassment being caused? No prizes if you guessed "automated crawlers."

Instead of pinpointing specific pages carrying UFC torrents for example, the crawlers will target any other pages (even those created dynamically by search engines) that link to them, meaning that the generated DMCA notices deindex hundreds of other items that have nothing to do with the specific rightsholder. This, while often leaving the actual torrent page intact.

For example, this DMCA notice sent by Zuffa targets many URLs which initially appear to have nothing to do with UFC content. We’ve highlighted just one as an example.

UFCDMCA3

On closer inspection the X Factor page has a section at the bottom titled "related torrents". Sure enough, links to other pages that carry UFC content are listed. Instead of taking those down though, Zuffa’s anti-piracy company shot the messenger instead.

What do you think? Is the UFC straying into murky water here with their blanket claims of content ownership, or is this just another necessary (if embarrassing) measure in the long battle to stamp out digital theft?

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